Tombstones Don’t Grow on Trees

That’s because they grow in them.

At least at the Lindon Grove Cemetery in Covington, Kentucky, that is. The cemetery is named after the grove of Lindon trees that once grew naturally in this part of town, so trees are important here. Lindon Grove is not just a Cemetery. It’s also a city park and certified arboretum. Many of the older and larger trees in the cemetery are marked with plaques designating both species and native origination.

Of course tombstones aren’t intentionally planted in the trees, but as the trees grow they encroach upon  nearby tombstones, nearly swallowing them. The photograph below is probably the most picturesque I found, but there are a great many tombstones growing in the trees here. Some are still identifiable; others are more tree than stone.

Tombstone in tree.jpg

Of all the cemeteries I’ve ever visited, this one ranks among my favorites. It’s not a typical, run-down, Halloween-type graveyard, although it is one of the many I have seen that once suffered from neglect and vandalism. Despite the absence of play equipment, children feel welcome here. I brought my granddaughter with me, and she was just as entranced by the trees, tombstones, and gently rolling landscape as she would have been in a playground.

curious little girl
Fascinated by tombstones.

This particular graveyard sits on the northern edge of the former Confederate States of America. Just two miles away, across the Ohio River, lays the land of freedom for African Americans still in the bonds of slavery. This is Underground Railroad country and a former hotbed of strife where brother fought against brother. Kentucky was the first southern state to fall back in to Union control.

This particular cemetery does not hide its dark past; it embraces and rises above it. Set up as a public cemetery by a local Baptist Theological Institute, it began as a fully integrated cemetery including a pauper section where those who could not afford a proper burial were buried for free. A veteran’s section includes memorials for all United States’ wars since the cemetery’s establishment in 1843. Black and white, bond and free are all buried here.

Civil War history is prominent in Lindon Grove. Because Kentucky did not last long as a Confederate State, both Union and Confederate memorials are laid row by row with Union stones facing off against Confederates. A wide pathway separates the two in semblance of the uneasy front line of a battlefield.  Interestingly, and certainly not intentionally, if one looks north towards Ohio, they can see the tips of Cincinnati’s towering skyline above the the war memorials as a reminder that freedom from the bonds of slavery was not far away.

At Linden Grove, contemporary life is inspired to mingle with the past. Pebbled walkways meander through the park encouraging foot traffic. Historic walking tours through the cemetery are occasionally offered. The serenity of the area is perfect for yoga enthusiasts. There are also picnic tables for a relaxing repast with family and friends. In the warmer months, the cemetery turns into a theater where theatrical performances and movies are provided for family entertainment. And of course the tombstones make great conversation pieces.

There is so much history here. The cemetery is actually included on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. Among the prominent members of the cemetery, are the city’s founders, politicians, soldiers, and every day heroes including slaves, freed slaves, and their free progeny. One memorial marks the grave of B. F. Howard, a black railroad porter, and founder of the first African-American Elks Chapter in Cincinnati, Ohio. Another belongs to Dr. Louise Southgate, a female physician and early women’s rights activist.

headless angelIt does not take much digging to find information on the many stories that are buried here. After just one visit and a quick Google search I had everything I needed for several blog posts. I could spend days digging through the mounds of historical information available at the Historic Linden Grove Cemetery & Arboretum website, and I could fill the rest of my lifetime telling stories from just this one cemetery. As Dave Schroeder, former director of Kenton County Public Library put it, “. . . If . . . you start writing down the names of some of the folks and look at the dates of birth and death and do a little research, you can learn so much about the community and what it was like at the time period just by taking your stroll through the cemetery.” My sentiments exactly.

If you try it, let me know! I’d love to share the stories you find.


16 thoughts on “Tombstones Don’t Grow on Trees

  1. What a wonderful place to see. I did my first intensive study of a cemetery during a geography graduate class in Mesa Arizona, at the Mesa Cemetery. What a fascinating place, with some beautiful artwork on some stones. I did several rubbings of the stones there.

    It started in 1883 after a smallpox epidemic, but there are many different sections. There are pioneer members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, including some plural marriage families. There are sections with many children who died in epidemics. There are soldiers. Recently, they’ve opened a new section, so I guess we aren’t done burying there! There are almost 40,000 records, but I don’t know if that includes the section where they buried unknowns during the Great Depression. The records are mostly available online, in alphabetical order, and provide a treasure trove for genealogists!

    Thanks for sharing your trip through Lindon Cemetery. I look forward to hearing more about it. I really like the way your granddaughter’s hair is styled, too. =)


    1. Wow! Thanks for sharing. Cemeteries are not nearly as boring as people often think. They are a treasure trove of history and untold stories. I’ve often wondered about those mass graves and unknown sections. Oh, and I did my granddaughter’s hair. She is so much fun!


  2. Just wanted to let you know that I have had a problem connecting to your new posts the last two days. I get the email notification, but the link leads to an error message. You probably know this, but just wanted to be sure you did.


    1. Thanks, Amy. I actually did not know this. My dad said he’d been having trouble too, but I just chalked it up to age (he’s 83). I should have known better; he’s still smart as a whip. I guess I’d better get in touch with WordPress.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. What I get is an “Oops! Something’s wrong” message. Sometimes that happens when the blog owner deletes a post for some reason, so the first time I thought maybe you had done that for further editing or something. But when it happened again today, I figured something was wrong. FWIW, when I go to your home page, those new posts are not there. This is the most recent post that appears.


  3. Very interesting post! I love cemeteries too, I’ve always liked to wander through and read the names and dates of who is buried there. I just wish I could teleport to all the places where all my ancestors are buried!! (Great job on the granddaughter’s hair, looks intricate! I was never very good at doing hair so my oldest daughter always did it for her younger three sisters- haha)


    1. Thanks DIanne! I know that feeling about teleporting. I often think that if my ancestors could teleport to our time, we’d scare them to death! Oh, and thanks for the compliments on Lexi’s hair. It’s actually pretty easy, and the only style her mom has the patience to do. Since they both live with me, I usually do the little one’s hair. I like it, since my daughter would never let me near her hair so I had to keep it short.


  4. Thanks for sharing! I love walking through old historic cemeteries like this one. They have a great mix of stories to tell! I’d love to visit this cemetery during my next trip to Kentucky!


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